Archive for Rhonda Fleming

Holliday Affair

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2019 by dcairns

I was struck by the stylised movements of several of the main cast in John Sturges’ GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL. Of course Burt Lancaster (as Wyatt Earp) was a former acrobat and always brought what I believe is termed a panther-like grace to his performances. But he and Kirk Douglas (Doc Holliday) and Jo Van Fleet are all doing an odd and beautiful thing, where they stop their movements momentarily each time they reach a potential dramatic pose, what animators might call an “extreme.”

These micro-pauses are very brief, but they make it a good film for frame-grabbing. As is the fact that the movie, always handsome (except a few regrettable studio night exteriors, something the colour western never mastered), becomes a series of striking icons as we near the climactic shoot-out.

(The women’s roles are unusually good, though Rhonda Fleming is robbed of her initial impact when she has to fall in love. Her movements are naturally more fluid than JVF’s, so they make a good contrast.)

Must check other Sturges films to see if this is something he pursued further.

K. Douglas: “The only trouble is, those best able to testify to my aim are unavailable for comment.”

Sharp screenplay by Leon Uris and George Scullin. Douglas and Van Fleet’s dysfunctional relationship (he’s a self-loathing drunk and sees her as the embodiment of his fallen status) is BY FAR the most interesting aspect. Douglas is always at his best with a touch of nastiness: fiercely competitive, he does actual manage to out-act Burt here.

Am pretty sure I never found Dennis Hopper beautiful before, but he is here. It makes me reassess his early career — he was set to be a fifties prettyboy like Tab Hunter, I guess. His inner beast had other plans. But now I see this soulful sweetness shining through in things like THE AMERICAN FRIEND.

GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL star J.J. Hunsecker & Steve Dallas; Vincent Van Gogh; Meta Carson; Ella Garth; Cherry Valance; ‘Bim’ Nolan; Fante & Mingo; Sidney Broome; Frank Booth; Prof. Teenage Frankenstein; Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy; Capt. Patrick Hendry; Mrs. Jorgensen; and Alamosa Bill.

*Probably would have posted something else today if I’d read the terrible news from Christchurch. Hate is all around us. If you know someone who is eaten up with it, get them talking. If they seem driven to act on it, report them. If they still have any decency, work on them. Damn it, humanity.

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16 carot

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on March 17, 2011 by dcairns

Couldn’t really get on with William Castle’s SERPENT OF THE NILE, a William Castle micro-epic with Rhonda Fleming as Cleopatra, filmed in front of a purple curtain or through a few slightly shoddy glass paintings. Note to FX artists: study perspective! If a ship is actually ON the horizon, you’ve got something which is standing practically AT the vanishing point yet failing to vanish: that redefines BIG.

Speaking of BIG, Raymond Burr is always good for a laugh, but the bulk of this didn’t seem ridiculous enough. Castle directs like a heavily medicated mannequin, as usual.

But the floorshow with a gilded Julie Newmar is something —

Fiona: “These scenes are usually rubbish, but she can really move!”

Me: “Castle used up all the colour (or ‘color’) in North America for this. They had to import more violet from Mexico.”

Baker’s Inferno

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2010 by dcairns

I keep forgetting that the venerable Roy Ward Baker, director of A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, among many others, had a pretty successful innings in Hollywood. DON’T BOTHER TO KNOCK starred Richard Widmark and the young Marilyn Monroe, and is pretty good, even though MM’s performance has come in for a lot of criticism. It’s a rare psychodrama where the deranged threat is also treated with sympathy as a character, and allowed to survive the end credits. And I just obtained NIGHT WITHOUT SLEEP, a noirish number with Linda Darnell.

INFERNO, filmed in eye-jabbing 3D, is also somewhat in a noir vein, starring as it does Robert Ryan (who could just about single-handedly wrench any movie into noir terrain) as a misanthropic millionaire (another Howard Hughes variant, like his turn in CAUGHT — he even gets injured and stuck in the wilderness like Hughes in the much later MELVIN AND HOWARD) with a scheming wife, Rhonda Fleming. She and her lover, William Lundigan (reliable movie ballast) mislead the rescue party to search the wrong area, in hopes that the broken-legged hubby will perish under the blazing sun.

So it’s a tale of survival, with Ryan building a splint, assembling a rope to get himself off a mountain, hunting for supper and looking for water in all the wrong places. And as such it’s reasonably compelling. The increasingly grizzled Ryan monologues internally to himself, keeping himself alive by plotting his revenge, until he finally comes to something resembling peace of mind and physical safety.

The 3D disappoints somewhat, mainly because the desert isn’t such a promising location for dimensional hi-jinks: there’s no middle-ground to add depth. Ryan’s lonely stumbling takes place against an infinity of distant sky and sand, with his pop-up figure the only point of interest. His crawl down the mountain should have offered opportunities for vertiginous thrills, but these seem to slip away: a POV looking downwards has no sense of scale, and could have been taken from the top of a hillock; most of the shots of Ryan pose him against the rockface, a flat background only inches behind him.

But I shouldn’t be too hard on the movie, since the copy I was working from was pretty sub-par. For one thing, the red and blue images were slightly out of synch, probably by two frames, causing a dark blink whenever there was a cut, and causing migrainy haloing of characters in motion, as if they’d stepped out of an old four-colour comic book printed out of register. So it’s fair to say nothing looked its best.

Nevertheless, with Ryan’s towering presence and such a compelling plot engine, the film entertains, and the final brawl in a confined cabin was terrific: as the room catches fire, illustrating the title in a new way, Baker throws furniture, lanterns, broken jugs,  Lundigan and blazing ceiling beams in our faces so fast we come away feeling bruised. Two-fisted anaglyph action!